You plan to design a drop-dead gorgeous brand identity for yourself. You open up Pinterest and start scrolling through inspiration, cutting images out of magazines, and putting together a beautiful mood board to get you inspired.
The problem with this strategy is that it misses a crucial step... WRITING.
Before you can leap into visual inspiration you need to write. You need words that fuel the visual search. You need words for direction. You need words to know what you want to communicate. You need words to define your business vision.
Everything in Business Starts with Writing. Even Design.
Everything you need to create and do in your business first starts with a plan, which you are relying on memory alone requires writing. And if you are relying on just memory you are making things harder for yourself because you are using up brain space remembering things, that could be written down instead of using that mind space to work on ideas and creative thinking.
Everything you need to create and do in your business first starts with a plan, which unless you are relying on memory alone, requires writing. And if you are relying on just memory you are making things harder for yourself because you are using up brain space remembering things, that could be written down instead of using that mind space to work on ideas and creative thinking.
- When you make plans- you write.
- When you create content- you write.
- When you create products- you write a plan and content.
- When you find a new client- you write emails, contracts, briefs, ideas and plans.
As you can see writing is an essential first step in most business tasks, particularly if you want them to go smoothly. And it isn’t always long pieces of writing, sometimes it’s simple notes, bullet points or to-dos. But getting words and thoughts on paper makes taking action a lot easier and clearer.
Of course the same applies to designing. If you want your design work to go smoothly, clearly and with direction and purpose, it has to begin with writing.
If you skip ahead and start with visual inspiration, and jump straight into photoshop, and throw something together with writing anything down, the process is likely going to feel frustrating, with second-guessing, fussing, lack of clarity and uncertainty.
While you might get away with it, if it’s something of little consequence, when it comes to approaching your visual branding and brand promotional graphics, you really want to be setting off on the right foot and have a written direction to guide you.
The Habit of Writing for Design
Writing before you design isn't something that only needs to happen when you go to approach a design. It can actually be a habit that you get into, giving you a lot of thoughts and ideas you can draw upon for designing.
Keep a notebook where you can jot down ideas, thoughts, customer language, things your audience have said or problem they face, actions or mindset shifts your audience need to take, your brand's vision and identity and marketing ideas.
Basically start creating design fuel. Words and ideas that can spark ideas or help you get clarity when working on future brand graphics.
When you make it a habit to collect those thoughts and ideas, you don't have to feel like you are starting from scratch, but have something to draw from. Making it a lot less tempting to simply imitate other designs and graphics you see, but to create something more unique to your brand's vision and visual voice.
If you want to get better at design, write regularly. Keep a record of your thoughts, and write out what is swimming in your head. Get it on paper, it'll make you better at design.
How Writing Plays into the Design Process
Ok so you have some random thoughts and ideas written down, but how does writing actually play out in the process of design? How do you use it to design?
The first step of the design process is a brief. When there is a client-designer relationship, the client will brief the designer on what they require. Now when you design for yourself 'of course you know what you want' but this doesn't mean you should skip right by this step. Get it in writing. Get clear on your objective and what is required.
- Who is this targeting?
- What does it need to communicate?
- What is the goal? (Why is this needed, what is it helping to achieve?)
- What content needs to be included?
- What style do you need to use?
- What brand guidelines should you follow?
- What size and resolution does it need to be?
- What will it be used for?
Then once you know what is required, you can then take the next step in writing, which is mind mapping and brainstorming. In this stage, you map out keywords and thoughts and then branch off from them with other possibilities that come from those words. Once you have a mind map full of keywords related to the project, you can then brainstorm possible ideas.
And if you thought 'surely I can start sketching or making a mood board now?' yes and no. The next step is research, so this will be a combination of image and words. Researching ideas and words, writing out anything you find in your research and also collecting images to build an inspirational mood board.
So as you can see, a lot of writing needs to happen before you get into anything visual. And the more time you dedicate to this early stage of the design process the better the end result will be.
What about quick graphics?
You know those times you need to quickly create something simple, that doesn't require too much thought. Just because it is quick doesn't mean you can completely skip the writing stage and just dive into designing. It just means you can simplify it. You still need to jot down some thought on what you want it to be about, the idea, your aim and what it needs to communicate, who to and the call the action/goal.
You may have got into a good groove with your branding, and know your style well, so it may only take a few small notes. But remember your design will always turn out better when you allow yourself to write first.
If you want to learn more about the early stages of the design process, and how to infuse more strategy into it, sign up below for my 'Create a Compelling Brand Style' on-demand workshop to learn more.
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